Cytosolic free Ca2+ and proteolysis in lethal oxidative injury in endothelial cells

M. D. Geeraerts, M. F. Ronveaux-Dupal, J. J. Lemasters, B. Herman

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116 Scopus citations


Oxygen free radicals (OFR) are thought to mediate ischemia-reperfusion injury to endothelium of heart, lung, brain, liver, and kidney and contribute to development of atherosclerosis, pulmonary O2 toxicity, and adult respiratory distress syndrome. Increased cytosolic free Ca2+ (Ca(i)2+) has been proposed as a mechanism of injury from oxidative stress, yet the pathways by which an increase in Ca(i)2+ may cause OFR-mediated endothelial cell injury remain unknown. Using multiparameter digitized video microscopy and the fluorescent probes, fura-2 acetoxymethyl ester and propidium iodide, we measured Ca(i)2+ and cell viability in human umbilical endothelial cells during oxidative stress with xanthine (50 μM) plus xanthine oxidase (40 mU/ml). Oxidative stress caused a sustained increase in Ca(i)2+ from a resting level of 90-100 nM to near 500 nM, which was preceded by formation of plasma membrane blebs. The increase in Ca(i)2+ was prevented by removal of extracellular Ca2+ (Ca(o)2+). Prevention of the increase in Ca(i)2+ was associated with prolonged cell viability. Readdition of Ca(o)2+ resulted in an immediate large increase in Ca(i)2+ and rapid onset of cell death. The protease inhibitors, leupeptin and pepstatin, delayed the increase in Ca(i)2+ and prolonged cell viability. The results are consistent with the hypothesis that endothelial cell injury due to oxidative stress may be the result of Ca(i)2+ influx and resultant activation of Ca2+-dependent proteases.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)C889-C896
JournalAmerican Journal of Physiology - Cell Physiology
Issue number5 30-5
StatePublished - 1991


  • Calcium
  • Endothelial cell
  • Leupeptin
  • Oxidative stress
  • Pepstatin
  • Protease
  • Toxic oxygen species
  • pH


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